Shaquille O’Neal, the legendary center who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, will be remembered for all time as one of the most formidable big men in the history of basketball. The spectacular performances he turned in, including 27.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game on average, were a major factor in the Lakers winning three titles in a row. But even for a player of Shaq’s ability, there was one competitor who always had the upper hand, and that was Hakeem Olajuwon.
O’Neal said in an honest interview that Olajuwon was the only player he couldn’t quite figure out during an NBA “Open Court” segment. The conversation took place in the NBA. Shaq was unable to find a method to frighten Hakeem, who was unmoved by his domination despite Shaq’s rising status in the league. Hakeem was unfazed by Shaq’s dominance. It should come as no surprise that throughout his career, O’Neal held Olajuwon in extremely high respect.
When they faced each other on the court, Shaq was in the process of building his reputation as a dominant force, while Hakeem had already established himself as an industry leader. Shaq was unable to escape the impression that he had not figured out his dangerous opponent, Olajuwon, despite the fact that he had great figures versus Olajuwon, including an average of 22.1 points on 54.4 percent shooting, 12.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.8 blocks in their 20 regular season meetings. Despite these numbers, Shaq could not shake the idea that he had not figured out his formidable opponent.
It’s possible that their matchups in the playoffs were the thing that really troubled O’Neal. Olajuwon was victorious in five of the eight postseason contests that the two players played against one other. The most notable matchup took place in 1995, when Hakeem defeated the younger Shaq by outscoring him with an amazing average of 32.8 points per game, culminating to Hakeem’s team winning all three games in the series.
In spite of the fact that Olajuwon appeared to be O’Neal’s Achilles heel early on in his career, Shaq ultimately found redemption and went on to win additional titles. It is a pity that their prime years did not coincide with one another because seeing a contest between the two would have surely been a fight of giants. Olajuwon would have presented a tough challenge to Shaq’s supremacy as a Laker, and it would have been a sight to behold.
Shaq’s path ultimately led him to forge his own way and leave an everlasting impression on the sport he loved so much. It is motivational to witness how O’Neal carried the torch and overcome those hurdles, despite the fact that he had first failures at the hands of an opponent whom he never fully figured out. In the end, it is a demonstration of his resiliency as well as his resolve to make his imprint on the annals of basketball history.